Conference tournaments full of surprises
With many power five conference tourneys wrapped up, we shift our focus to the Big Ten and Big 12, where there is plenty of value to gain for potential seeding debates.
Over in Indianapolis, the Big Ten quarterfinals went exactly as everyone would have predicted, with three of the underdogs upsetting higher seeds, some in dominant fashion.
Even the conferences number one team Maryland looked on the ropes against Nebraska before Ashley Owusu and her almost triple-double put away the Cornhuskers in the fourth. The Terrapins semifinal opponent will not be Michigan, however, as the 4-seed fell by 16 to the 5-seed Northwestern Wildcats.
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Northwestern was led by Veronica Burton who scored 25 to go along with 13 rebounds, impressive for a guard. The real story of the game was the Wolverines inability to convert. Outside of Naz Hillmon, they shot 9-46 from the field, with only three other players even scoring a basket. Without taking away too much credit from Northwestern’s defense, it seemed like an off night for Michigan, who will look to channel the disappointing loss into March Madness fuel. Northwestern will take on Maryland in the first semifinal, where a win would certainly improve their line to a 5 seed.
Bottom half of bracket
The other two quarterfinals featured #2 Indiana vs #7 Michigan State and #3 Rutgers vs. #6 Iowa. While the two lower seeds were surely in the tournament field before yesterday, their resume’s added major references.
Michigan State lost its only meeting against Indiana in the regular season, but this was a much different contest. The teams combined for 35 turnovers and over 40 fouls in a game that was anything but clean. Despite being down eight at halftime, the Spartans rode Nia Clouden (30 points) to a comeback statement victory.
The loss breaks a streak of nine straight wins for the Hoosiers, who should hang on to a three seed as they eagerly await selection Monday.
Speaking of winning streaks, Rutgers had won nine games in a row as well. For the second time this season, the Scarlet Knights were overpowered by Iowa. Three Hawkeyes scored 20+ points and they are now responsible for half of Rutger’s losses on the season.
With Arella Guiratnes leading the way, Rutgers will be a dangerous team in bracket play, Iowa just seems to have their number. Either Iowa or Michigan State will make it to an unexpected Big 10 final.
Big 12 Preview
Only one Big 12 team is on the bubble, with Oklahoma currently sitting as a first four out team. It might be as simple as beat in-state rival Oklahoma State later today and they are in, but a deep conference run would secure the Sooners a bid.
As for the rest of the teams, the Big 12 still goes through Baylor. The Lady Bears have decimated the #2 seed West Virginia in both matchups this season, with only an Iowa State loss as a blemish on the schedule. The 4/5 contest of those Cyclones vs Charli Collier and Texas may be the best quarterfinal game with the most important implications for the rest of the conference tournament.